I've visited all 50 States of America! I've done it and I'm pretty proud of it too. An amazing feeling to be able to say that I've either drank, ate or went to the toilet in each state. Yeah those were my criteria. Airports don't count.
15 years ago I studied a year in Memphis, Tennessee. That was my first time in America and I loved it. This week I was back at the University of Memphis and to my surprise Carol, the administrator, still worked there. Same place, same desk, same friendly face. The university hadn't changed at all. My old classroom still looked in as much need of a renovation as it did all those years ago. Carol still looked amazing.
University staff, from professors to administrators and everyone in between, have a huge influence on the student's experience. To make it an enjoyable, memorable and life changing experience requires staff to go the extra mile. They certainly did that at the university of Memphis. Something I've tried to copy when I was a university lecturer in England and even now in my online workshops.
Studying music business in a city like Memphis was an incredible experience. Southern hospitality mixed with liquor stores make for a good time. I was a student, come on! Beale Street with places such as The Orpheum and BB King made it all worth it. In the latter bar I met Sir Mack Rice, the man who wrote the song Mustang Sally. Memphis holds a special, albeit biased, place in my top 10 of most impressive places in America.
Anyway Tennessee was my first state. As a student I did a Christmas road trip from Memphis via Little Rock, Oklahoma, Santa Fe, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Death Valley, to San Francisco. I did this trip together with Morgan (French girl), Marc (also French) and Mikko (Finnish). An odd bunch but it made for good travel company.
On Christmas Eve the car broke down in Death Valley. In the middle of nowhere. Mikko and Morgan stayed by the car (not very gentleman like, I know) and the Frenchman and I were driven to Stove Pipe Wells Village by someone who was friendly enough to stop. In the local bar, also tourist office, store and restaurant, we waited for the tow truck to arrive. 6 people in the bar and all seemed to be drowning their sorrows that night. The only woman present danced to the Eagle's Hotel California like no one should ever dance to that song. Yes, that's the image in stuck with for the rest of my life every time I hear that song. I guess a pole was the only thing missing. It still wonder what exactly went through her head when she heard that song. Made an impression on me though.
Fast forward 15 years and I've added every other State to my list. America is an amazing place and the one thing I've learned is that you should look at America as 50 different countries. Each state has their own personality, culture and way of living.
For example customer service has a completely different definition in New York than it has in Portland. Tennessee has the most police cars on the road. North Dakota is the most patriotic state. Californians don't know how to drive. In southern states people seem to collect unused cars around their houses. The smaller the house the more cars there are on the lawn.
America; a fantastic collection of 50 different countries. I might have seen every State but I think I've only seen a small percentage of this vast, vast slab of land. In a few days time I'm going back to San Francisco and I'm thinking to include some southern hospitality into my workshops. I might even develop the workshop How not to dance to Hotel California. I've got a contact in Stove Pipe Wells Village who might be able to help...